A black person can be white
Being black is a part of me - please finally acknowledge that
The days after George Floyd's death felt gloomy and lonely. After the video went viral, I spoke to my black friends online. We poured out our hearts and agreed that things urgently need to change. But a lot of the non-Black people I know quickly got back to business as usual, posting funny memes and self-promotions on Instagram.
The (non-existent) reactions raised a lot of questions in me. How should I feel if my Instagram timeline consists partly of pictures of barbecues and walks in the forest and partly of posts in which people become aware of their privileges and stand up for black people? How should I react if the guy I've been meeting for a while sends me photos of his breakfast while our city is literally on fire? The gap between the people who looked into the subject and those who didn't was enormous. It reminds me of my childhood where I was shown that I'm different - only that this time it's not that subtle.
I grew up in a part of New Jersey that is mostly white People live. My parents made a conscious decision to raise me there and not in the largely black neighborhood where I was born. They said they wanted to increase my chances of being successful. It affected every part of my life - from the way I spoke (I gave African American Vernacular English and instead used the "standard language") through to the hair extensions that I had made to conform to the European ideals of beauty.
For most of my life I was very much aware of my differentness. And every time I briefly forgot about it, I was reminded of it again by microaggressions - as when a white classmate called my braids "French fries". Or when adults gave me unpleasant compliments like “You speak English so well !?” or “Your hair is so cool! Can I touch it? ”. I even saw acquaintances using the N-word incidentally - and then quickly adding “No offense!” When they saw me. I tolerated all of this because I lacked self-confidence or I didn't know how to stand up for myself. I accepted that they didn't know any better and that they were the result of our anti-black, racist society.
My closest, longest friendships are with white women. My favorite teachers were white. I went out with white men. When I was younger, I wanted to be treated like my white friends who were never reduced to their skin color or background. But as I age and the protests sparked by the recent murders of unarmed black men and women, it becomes more and more important for me to be seen, valued, and respected for who I am. I want people not to just ignore the fact that I am black. I am not detached from my skin color and my background. In other words, being black is part of me.
I am grateful for that white Friends who want to support me and us and who are aware of their privileges. But I also see the people who are silent during this systematic suppression.
I also often question how sincere the support is. Take Blackout Tuesday as an example, a day when nothing should be posted in order to draw attention to black voices. That day I saw how white People became aware of their privileges and vowed to listen better and become better allys. I wanted to give in to the relief of finally being noticed by companies, brands and some social media friends, but I was skeptical. Do these people really want to use their strength and their time to change something or were their actions performative - In other words: Was it just a matter of being in public as Ally to represent? Are you still offline now, weeks after “Blackout Tuesday”, or was posting the black square your first and last act? Did they talk or talk about it because it is now “trendy” not to be racist?
Although the Black Lives MatterMovement has now become mainstream, some have white People who I would have counted among my friends in the past have still not spoken out.
There are no general rules on how to react when your community is in mortal danger and the people you care about don't care. I was confronted with the issue of racism as a child, but I know that it was not the case with others. I don't know what, in fairness, I can ask of the non-black people in my life right now; but I know it wouldn't be fair to me to have to rely solely on their feelings. What I can say is that it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable when white People are now silent or not actively involved.
I want to experience concrete allyship. Real allyship is the beginning of an awkward dialogue. It's about showing face during protests. Donate money to organizations that work for black people. To draw attention to injustices through your work when you are an artist. It's about taking responsibility.
Some people think it is better not to say anything than to talk about a topic that is not well understood. I think this is just an excuse to avoid the conversation. Silence is indifference. Silence is comfort. At a time when the American president is unleashing the military on citizens who are simply making use of their basic rights, silence is violence.
I have to keep reminding myself that I am not responsible for bearing the ignorance and inaction of others on my shoulders. It is not my responsibility to explain why “All Lives Matter” posters are problematic, to say the least. I don't need to personally inform others of our plight.
No matter how many infographics, explanatory videos or call-to-actions of your favorite celebrities you see: some people will continue to remain ignorant. For me personally, the most effective way is white To survive silence, to allow and work through one emotion after the other. By doing this, I make myself aware that my anger, anger, and disappointment are acceptable ways of healing.
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